I think Tinsley Ellis has reached the pinnacle of his career on The Hard Way. As a recording artist and producer, it does not seem he could get much better, however he does have many more albums left before his career is over. I have always been a strong advocate of his work, and it is obvious to me that every recording that Ellis releases is an improvement upon the last. That is the way it should be when you are trying to create a legacy that generation after generation will refer to when it comes to the best blues-rock music recorded. I think this man is on the right path.
While the mixture of styles is eye opening on this outing, his vocals reminded of B.B. King on the more upbeat tracks. He manages to stay within the realm of blues-rock by varying the tempos of each track and the way he uses his voice. With rockin’ instrumental numbers like "Love Bomb" he reminded me of the Jeff Beck Wired era of jazz-rock-fusion. His playing is exemplary, proving once again that he is the consummate guitar player. Then there is the straight-ahead ZZ Top like barnburners that are his trademark such as "12 Pack Poet," that will satisfy the faithful. It is what long time fans are accustomed to hearing, and the newly initiated will have much more to enjoy in comparison to the previously released Hell or High Water (2002), which was a great album as well, it just did not have as much diversity. For example, on "Let Him Down Easy" you will hear a mellower vocalist and more tasteful guitar player, carefully choosing were to place the notes between his vocals.
This is a well thought out project with many facets and directions for the eclectic blues enthusiast to enjoy. Without any fanfare and the typical Tinsley Ellis workmanlike approach, he has created the album of his career. Man, what a guitar player this man is! He is in a class all by himself.